A Twenty-Something’s Guide to Living Through a Pandemic

Ah, COVID-19. The experience none of us ever wanted or anticipated. The other day, I was thinking back to when this all started: there were whispers circulating around school, I was asking Ryan to go out and stock up on a few extra rolls of toilet paper. “Just in case!” I said, and he laughed.

Even after two months of news, the way COVID-19 came in and upended our lives was shocking. The world fell into a state of grief: grieving for lost social networks, lost routines, and for those worst affected, lost jobs. We started to stay home, all day, every day.

I’ve written a couple different posts on the Distance Learning situation for teachers and students during all this, so I’m not going to go there again. Instead, I’m going to speak to how we adjusted. We started to reach out more. We started to ZOOM on the weekends with family and friends. We started to get nervous at the grocery stores and we started to wear masks out in public. I, for one, tried to stay off the internet as much as possible but boy, was that hard. You don’t realize how much of your time exists outside your home until you can no longer go outside your home.

A pandemic is one of those things that you don’t just adjust to. Living through it, you think it’ll get easier, week by week, and then you’re startled when that’s not the case. Every day feels independent of the others. However, if this period of life has provided us with one thing, it’s time to reflect. In the hours I’ve spent sitting and thinking, I’ve come across a few realizations I’m going to share today.

Everyone needs something different and it is not your job to tell them what that is.

Some people have been directly effected by this pandemic. They’ve lost jobs, lost businesses, and lost loved ones. However, most people have not been directly effected. We are living in a strange period where everyone, effected or not, needs something different. No two people are experiencing this pandemic the same way and it is not your job to tell them what they should be doing or how they should be doing it. After all, what’s helping you, probably won’t help them! We’re in uncharted waters. So if you have a friend who needs to talk, then listen. Sometimes all someone needs to hear is “I’m here. I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

Our identities often directly connect with our careers.

Whether working from home, furloughed, or out of work- jobs in America look very different than they did two months ago. Our economy is falling apart because of it. However, below the surface, there’s been an identity shift. We’re no longer 9 to 5 workers- driving in, chatting with co-workers, and getting s*** done. A lot of us (speaking especially to teachers here) have lost the purpose we connect with the tasks we do day in and day out. We’ve lost a part of who we are, feeling more robotic than human as we sit and type and hide behind computer screens.

Maybe you choose a career for the salary you know you’ll make. Maybe you choose a career because it’s something you’re good at, or it’s something you genuinely like to do. Maybe you choose a career because you have no other options. Either way, that career makes up a huge part of who you are and takes up a huge part of your time. When that changes, you change, and I don’t know that many of us are very good at change.

Sometimes you need something drastic to happen to remind you of what’s important in your life.

If there’s anything to be said for these past two months, it’s that we’ve definitely slowed down. We’ve re-evaluated. We’ve reached out. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re under a roof, warm and fed. If you’re one of the lucky ones you’re talking with family members who are safe and healthy. If you’re one of the lucky ones, the most important things in your life are still intact.

It’s hard to feel lucky in times like these, but so many of us are. When we break our lives down to the simplest things, we can feel grateful. As we move forward, where ever forward may be, we should try our hardest to hold on to this time as a reminder that health and security can be enough. We can hold on to the fact that in times of need, people reach out a hand to one another. We can still laugh together, and smile together, and even cry together.

I have this funny feeling that eventually, the world is going to go back to normal, but that probably won’t be the case. I can’t imagine yet how things might change after we come out the other side of this. I can’t imagine how that might look. I think the startling reality to all this is that nothing will ever be the same again. However, we’ll make it through, for better or for worse. Our history is made up of stories where people persisted. I have no doubt that we’ll do the same.

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